MELISSA BLOCK, host:
On now to troubles with American rebuilding efforts in Iraq, troubles pointed out by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. He has a new report out and among other things, it says only a small percentage of the Iraqi weapons paid for by U.S. taxpayers are registered by their serial numbers and that means they could easily end up in the hands of insurgents.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Coming up, I'll talk with Stuart Bowen about the weapons and other American projects in Iraq.
First, here's NPR's Tom Bowman from the Pentagon.
TOM BOWMAN: The U.S. government has spent $133 million arming the Iraqi security forces, both the army and the police - pistols, AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades. The report says just 10,000 of the nearly 400,000 small arms were registered. Bowen in his report talks about the, quote, “sensitivity of weapons accountability.” What he means is, without registering a weapon by its serial number, there is no way to say who is using it and that is a particular problem in Iraq, especially among a police force that has ties to the Shiite militia groups.
Michael O'Hanlon is a defense analyst with the Brookings Institution.
Mr. MICHAEL O'HANLON (Brookings Institution): We have a situation. We have no idea how many of the weapons that we give to police are being confiscated by people who also work with militias and thereby wind up in the hands of people who are causing the problems in Iraq as opposed to solving the problems.
BOWMAN: Bowen recommends that the U.S. military make sure all the weapons for Iraqi forces are registered. In the report, the U.S. military command in Baghdad conceded it did not list the serial numbers of all weapons. Those military officials say they did keep records of which Iraqi army and police units received weapons.
But the inspector general's report says even those records were questionable. The American military did not account in those books for 13,000 pistols, 750 assault rifles and 500 machine guns that were bought with American money.
American military officials in Baghdad did not respond to questions from NPR.
Bowen also says the Iraqis lack the spare parts, manuals and maintenance personnel to keep those weapons in good working order. At the same time, the inspector general found that the Iraqis have a long way to go in providing for their own logistics. The report says that the U.S. does not have enough personnel to train Iraqis to be supply clerks, mechanics or medics and the American military could not even say how many Iraqis it has trained so far.
Bowen says the Iraqi logistics effort is, quote, “severely undermanned.” The Iraqis have less than half the medics that are required. The Iraqi supply depot north of Baghdad has just 28 percent of the nearly 1,300 personnel it needs. Again, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
Mr. O'HANLON: I think we have to assume that as a matter of practicality we're going to need to keep trainers and technicians and others to build up Iraq's capabilities in these areas for probably five to ten more years.
BOWMAN: The inspector general's report agrees it could take at least several years before Iraq has the trained mechanics and supply personnel. For now, Iraqi logistics are being handled by both the American military and contractors paid for by the United States. That $247 million contract is said to expire in March and will likely have to be extended, the inspector general says.
Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said more training of security forces is necessary in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He said he spoke with American commanders.
Mr. DONALD RUMSFELD (U.S. Defense Secretary): They come back in with new proposals as to the levels they believe the security forces in those two countries ought to be, the mix among them and the emphasis as between combat forces, police, support, air lift, intelligence and the various other pieces.
BOWMAN: So far, there are no details on those proposals.
Tom Bowman, NPR News, the Pentagon.
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